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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is working out loud and sharing really collaboration?

9:10:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
Following the presentations at the IntraTeam Event 2016 yesterday, Wedge Black sparked a discussion on Twitter whether or not working out loud and sharing is really about collaboration:

It's a very interesting and relevant question that deserves to be answered.

To share my point of view of this, I need more than a few tweets. I need to get back to my view of collaboration.

I have said it and written it many times before, but it needs to be repeated: Collaboration is the very reason the organization you work for exists. It brings people together to collaborate on a shared goal or purpose. The better you collaborate as an organization, the greater the chances your organization will survive and thrive.

In a small company or startup, all this is obvious. But when an organization grows, the organization and the work it does is divided up into groups and teams. We sometimes seem to forget that this is only a way to organize the work. The organization's shared purpose or goal should still be what everybody puts first, even if they have their own (sub)goals as groups or teams. If they don't, things will go really wrong. It is my analysis that this is what happened to Nokia, which I have written about in a previous post ("Did Nokia fall victim to silo mentality?").

The 20th century was the era of the industrial corporation and mass production. Cost-effectiveness, time to market and economies of scale dominated the agenda of most corporations. In the name of efficiency, collaboration got encoded, automated and orchestrated in processes and systems. Soon collaboration was running in autopilot mode.

Today organizations operate in increasingly dynamic, competitive and unpredictable business environments. They need to be prepared for change and quickly adapt to changes in their environment. This means they cannot rely on the autopilot for collaboration any more. They need the spontaneity, flexibility and creativity that often characterizes collaboration in a small company or startup, but it must happen at a much greater scale and across geographical and organizational barriers.

Therefore, we need a new and fresh way to look at collaboration.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to thinking of collaboration as a team working closely together to achieve a shared goal. We should think broader. Bigger.

Collaboration is often defined as two or more people working together to purpose a shared goal or purpose. The key parts of this definition are "working together" and "shared goal or purpose". It (just as most definitions of collaboration that I have encountered) does not set a limit to how many people are involved. What it says is that there must be at least two people involved. And the definition doesn’t say how interdependent their work is and how tightly - or loosely - they need to collaborate. In other words, the work can be very loosely coupled. But it cannot be entirely independent. Because there must be a shared purpose or goal that ties it together.

The term cooperation is often used interchangeably with collaboration. But there is a subtle yet important difference. Cooperation is when people work together on the same thing but who might be pursuing different goals, or pursuing the same goal but with different motivations.

My point of view is that, within an organization, people should be pursuing the same overall goals and share the same motivations, regardless of what kind of tasks they are performing or what subordinate goals they might be pursuing.

So what does this mean for working out loud and sharing?

When you are working out loud, you are helping your colleagues - not only those in your team or group but those who work in other teams or groups - build workplace awareness so that you can collaborate better - as an organization. You can identify interdependencies and align and coordinate your work to avoid sub-optimization.

When you share your knowledge, information and ideas openly with other colleagues, it will become available to anyone who needs it in their work when pursuing your shared purpose as members of the same organization.

If you put the purpose and goals of the organization you work for, you should work out loud. You should share anything that might be valuable to your colleagues. 


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